Developing and validating the digital ‘distance affect regulation mapping’ tool

“We developed a tool to map coping strategies that could be used to assess change following medical intervention and predict problematic ‘swapping’ of strategies (eg eating to alcohol)”

This was an inter-disciplinary collaborative project involving Dr. Laura Wilkinson (Principal Investigator; Swansea University), Tanisha Douglas (PhD candidate, Swansea University), Professor Jeff Stephens (Swansea University and ABMU), Mr. Jonathan Barry, (Consultant laparoscopic bariatric surgeon at the Welsh Institute of Metabolic and Obesity Surgery, Morriston Hospital, Swansea), Dr. Angela Rowe (University of Bristol), Dr. Martin Thirkettle (Sheffield Hallam University), Professor Michelle Lee (Swansea University) and Dr. Menna Price (Swansea University)..

We all have different ways of coping with stress and negative feelings. Unfortunately, some of these coping strategies can have a deleterious effect on our health. Many of us will, therefore, try to make a change; this might be to give up smoking, to drink less alcohol or to eat less junk food.

But stressful events still happen and we all still need to cope with this. What we don’t want is for people to go back to the coping strategy they gave up/ reduced or to find a new way of coping that is also bad for your health.

We have worked to create a tool (Coping Strategies Assessment Tool; CSAT) to help people (and the clinicians supporting them) to understand how they cope with stress and negative emotion. The tool maps their behaviours and identifies their coping mechanisms (such as eating as way to cope with stress). It allows us to look at a person’s coping strategy as a whole, rather than focusing on only one or two behaviours. In so doing, we hope to foster more productive and healthier ways of coping so that interventions to improve health are not undermined. In this project our main focus was to understand coping behaviours in patients undergoing bariatric (weight-loss) surgery.

CHERISH facilitated the development of the tool which is coded in Javascript and hosted on the Qualtrics platform. The team ran three focus groups – 1 with the general public, 1 with patients undergoing bariatric surgery and 1 with experts from clinical teams who would use the tool. Subsequent ‘in the round’ discussions led to tool improvements such as making wording more user friendly, the tool more intuitive etc.  Funding also supported a validation study – data has been collected from 463 participants, with follow up from 240 participants 2 weeks later. The results are being analysed now to ensure that it is tapping in to the intended concepts (i.e., coping; convergent validity). 

“I have found the CSAT tool to be clinically helpful while working with patients in a level three weight management service. It is clear and easy to use. It is clinically informative and has helped patients to recognise the relationship between using food to cope with emotional distress. It has also been helpful in highlighting the limited amount of strategies patients have for coping with emotion other than food and this has helped to guide the direction of future work.” Dr. Sinead Singh, Cardiff & Vale UHB.